Published in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, James D. Wright, ed.
Legal realism was a movement in American legal thought between World War I and World War II. The American Legal Realists were legal academics who shared a politics that was liberal, though not socialist, and four overlapping interests. The first was in what Pound called ‘the law in action,’ where the Realists pursued studies of state and federal courts, banks, and parking and traffic enforcement. The second interest was in criticizing the doctrinal results of legal formalism (see Legal Formalism) where they worked in areas such as antitrust, commercial and corporate law, conflict of laws, evidence, and torts. The third interest was in judicial decision making, where the Realists argued that the inability of the doctrinal formulation of legal rules to yield determinate answers in concrete cases established the subjectivity of judicial decisions. The fourth was in legal education where they supported the reorganization of the course materials of legal study in terms of the functions performed by legal institutions and encouraged a shift from the justification of law in terms of derivation from supposedly logical principles to one based on assumed knowledge of social conditions to which law is applied in the pursuit of supposedly agreed-upon social policy.
Law as social policy, Law in action, Legal education, Legal realism, Realists, Roscoe Pound, Sociological jurisprudence
Law | Law and Society | Legal Theory
John Henry Schlegel, Legal Realism, in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences 772 (James D. Wright, ed., Elsevier 2d ed. 2015).